His high school coach, UNC baseball alumni Devy Bell, received the news from his standout pitcher and outfielder about some changes in his recruiting direction.
"I thought at that point he was sort of leaning toward ECU,” Bell said. “Coach Fox called me two days after Zach talked to me about it and sounded like he was very interested in him and the potential for him coming to Carolina ... I think once Zach got wind of that, it pretty much sealed the deal. I don't think anything or anyone will be changing his mind about it anytime soon."
Bernard verbally committed to the Tar Heels over interest from Duke, Clemson, NC State, ECU, UNC-W, Coastal Carolina and Elon.
"The program prestige and their development of the players that they have had,” Bernard cited as the leading reasons for choosing the Tar Heels. “I really like the campus and basically everything about North Carolina. The coaches there are great and everything is very exciting. The academic strength of the school was just as important as the coaches and what they can do for me as well as the chance at a national championship.
"Coach Bell helped me out with the whole process - he already knew all of the coaches at North Carolina and so he helped me out there. He was a great role model to look up to throughout this whole process since he has been through the same situation."
In addition to being the anchor of the Jordan rotation – Bernard is a skilled outfielder. "I told Coach Fox that Zach has the ability to play two positions for him with the new NCAA rules about the roster,” Bell said. “I don't think that Coach Fox knew or realized that if he got in a tight spot this kid could play in the outfield with the best of them. He really can play any position. He plays center field very well and had several assists while playing left field last year."
Bernard added, “It would be a fun opportunity to [possibly] be a two way player."
Bernard batted .333 last season while slugging .581 with 24 runs, 20 RBI and stole 14 bases. On the mound he amassed 45 innings with two complete games and a 1.87 ERA while striking out 41 batters for the Falcons.
"You really have a chance to win every time he heads out there," Bell said. "That is what he brings. He also can field the position very well, has a great pickoff move and does a great job with guys on base."
Bernard is the No. 20-ranked prospect in the state of North Carolina according to Impact Baseball and was an All-Conference selection in addition to playing on the select team at the State Games. He features a two- and four-seam fastball, that now reaches 89 miles per hour, in addition to featuring a curveball and change up.
"I think my velocity has increased because of my arm strength, maturity and muscle strength," Bernard said of the steady improvement in his throwing velocity during his prep career. "But I have also made some tweaks in my windup and mechanics that I think helped me - but mostly it has come from [improving] muscle strength."
Bernard’s goals for his senior season aren’t modest -- "A state championship would be nice this season and keeping my ERA under 1.5 and just helping my team win,” he said.
As for his pro prospects? Bernard said he’ll decide about the MLB Draft when the time comes, but in the meantime reiterated that attending UNC has a potential pro benefit as well.
"North Carolina is a great school so it would take quite a lot,” he said. “I am very fortunate to have this opportunity right now and that will be a big decision - I will cross that bridge when I get to it. They get a lot of publicity at North Carolina as it is probably the best baseball school in the country and the coaches there will develop you and try to do everything they can while you are there to help develop you and make you the best ballplayer they can."